Nipple Freedom: A Call To Decriminalize The Female Body
by Cassandra Erickson
We are born free and we die free, but it is the responsibility of the individual to live free.
Nobody is indecent by nature nor are they pornographic by design, but it is our culture and our perspective of the human form that has become incessantly lewd and offensive. While politicians move to further decriminalize rape and other crimes against women, as a female it is beyond my understanding as to why they must also strive to outlaw the female form itself. As if to say that women are unlawful by birth, therefore, those who commit crimes against us are then free from persecution.
About a hundred years ago, in our so-called civil societies, it was unheard of for a woman to expose her legs. No matter the season, her body remained hidden beneath heavy floor length gowns. By mid-century, it was our stomachs and mid-drifts that we fought to expose at our leisure. Decades later, we still fight for our right to be women and to be seen as more than flesh and bones. So, by this thinking, if we can agree that the world will not fall into an apocalyptic state at the sight of an ankle or a belly button, is it truly asking so much of society to tolerate a female nipple?
Cleavage has not been outlawed. Neither has the scandalous under-boob nor the infamous side-boob, all of the actual breast tissue is completely acceptable. In some cases, parts of a female’s areolas are good to go, but the second a nipple, a female nipple, is involved the world begins to spin off axis and those with the loudest and most detestable voices demonstrate just how threatened they are by the sight of it. So, what is it about a nipple that could cause such a stir of unreasonable discomfort?
If one must argue the thought that a female breast is only sexually suggestive because it triggers a biological response in a man to find a suitable mate to sire an heir that is one thing. However, it does seem ludicrous to think that upon sight of a nipple, a part that again we all reasonably have, a man would rightfully lose all control and concept of social decency and be driven into a manic state to violently rape against their own will. As a happily married woman with two growing sons, I possess far too much respect for the male gender to think that they themselves do not possess the means to control their sexual urges. It is absolutely absurd to think that throughout all of these centuries of evolution, men are by nature still primitive cavemen with no means of understanding basic communication (IE: no means no) and only their own personal physical desire.
Breastfeeding, for many women, can at times be inconvenient and uncomfortable, but they persevere because there is nothing better for an infant than what a mother can offer. And yet after only a few generations, the act of breastfeeding has been trans- formed in the public eye to be seen as a sexual act rather than a means to give your child the very best to not only survive but to thrive. Because of this demented mentality, ve American states have even gone so far as to prohibit nursing mothers to breast- feed in public. In Louisiana specifically, a woman can receive up to $2,500 in fines and up to three years in jail. What is the true crime here, a mother feeding her growing child in a public place or condemning her for doing so?
Both male and female breasts are made of the same things: a nipple, an areola, in addition to breast tissue. Biologically, there is no profound difference between the two. While breastfeeding both of my sons, the excess of estrogen in my milk caused small breasts to form in their infant bodies. This has also been known to occur in puberty due to an overabundance and influx of hormones, not to mention by simple means of weight gain at any age. It has also been documented that in some cases, men have even been able to achieve successful lactation. And yet, despite the science that confirms just how wondrous the human body is, men do not fear outrageous fines, possible jail time and social ridicule for exposing their chests in public. However, I was elated to discover that this was not always the case. In the early 1930’s the men of Coney Island fought for their freedom to bare their chests on public beaches and boardwalks and with persistent dedication by 1936, it was socially accepted amongst the masses. Their voices were heard and by result, both laws and minds were changed to be more open and accepting. Over a span of just a few short years, the social norm transformed and a shift in consciousness spread from state to state. So, we ask you honestly, “If they can do it, why can’t we?”
Keeping all of that in mind, I was again disheartened to learn that in 1938, just a few short years later, when a 28-year-old Los Angeles kindergarten teacher by the name of Helen Hulick, arrived at a municipal courtroom wearing slacks to testify as a witness against two suspects in a burglary, the attention of the court quickly shifted from an actual crime to the audacity of this free spirited woman. After failing to comply with the judge’s request to attend court in respectable attire for a woman, she was consequently jailed. Clearly, burglary is less threatening to the success of society than the idea that a woman can live as a man does even to such a small degree as wardrobe choices. The judge was quoted saying, “Today you come back dressed in pants and openly defying the court and its duties to conduct judicial proceedings in an orderly manner.” Yes, these were different times and yes the Women’s Liberation Front has made great strides to better the world for women everywhere since, but the perception of women in the eyes of extremists, politicians, and our media has not changed much and future generations are already suffering because of it. Women are still seen as a distraction rather than actual citizens.
In 1945 when our boys returned home from war, women every- where were unrightfully red from their jobs and were forced back into the home under a capitalist agenda to re-domesticate the working gals of the day. As televisions began popping up in American homes, an enormous media campaign was launched and as a result, women have been heavily misrepresented in the media ever since. Presently, the media of the twenty-first century has become increasingly more powerful and with this power, our society and the future of our society, particularly the minds of our children, are shaped. Young girls are brought up to believe that their primary focus in life should be attaining unattainable beauty and young boys are made to believe that a female’s appearance is the most important attribute a woman could possibly offer. Even as adults, the most influential women in our country are still being held to a standard of beauty rather than being held accountable for their intellect or credentials. The women who do not conform to these ideals of beauty and worth are heavily scrutinized in the public eye and showered with shallow critiques and unnecessary negative judgments. If the most respected women of our country are falling victim to these limiting ideals associated with extreme gender bias then surely the rest of the women of the world are, like you and I, objected to severe levels of sexism as well. As a race, this is not an inherent way of thinking, it is very much learned behavior adopted over generations of prejudice.
In G-rated movies, female protagonists are just as likely to be found wearing sexually suggestive clothing as they would in R-rated movies. The hyper-sexualization of women has become an epidemic in this country and it is becoming evidently clear how unjust our censorship laws truly are when they continue to en- courage unequal and unlawful treatment between genders. While blood, guts, gore and vivid tellings of inhumane ways to die be- come excessively more common in PG-rated material, the simple sight of a nipple can deem a production worthy of an NC17 rating. This is the struggle Lina Esco, director, and writer of the controversial movie Free The Nipple faced when theaters across the country refused to show her lm based on an unfair rating of content rather than the actual content itself. This production tells a true story of an army of courageous women, with a team of First Amendment lawyers, who demand social reform and take action to achieve it. Taking the New York City streets by storm, these women joined together in protest of wrongful censorship and nudity laws in the United States.
The Surgeon General as well as the American Psychological Association and The Centers for Disease Control has even gone so far as to be cited stating that there is a direct link between on- screen violence within the media and outwardly aggressive and violent behavior in society and yet we have seen absolutely no regulation of the media and not one policy change. So, the question continues to creep into the minds of men and women across the country, “Which is worse, violence or a nipple?” Misery love company, negativity breeds more negativity and violence naturally leads to more violence. Children exposed to such high levels of hostility and aggression at any age will experience lasting effects. For some, it can mean awed perspectives and for others, it could possibly mean mimicked behavior. But if the children of future generations can be raised within a culture where they are taught to respect their bodies rather than destroy them, the positive results we would find on a massive scale would be undeniable.
According to FreeTheNipple.com, it is presently illegal in 35 states for a woman to be topless in public. Even in the states where a woman is free to be topless, she can still technically be arrested for “disorderly conduct.” However, if this is truly the only “crime” being committed to the well-being of our society, then it is the responsibility of the individual to stand proudly and prove to the municipal courts of this great country that we women are a force to be reckoned with.
If being topless isn’t included in your city’s municipal code against nudity and if unjust actions are taken against you by the hands of law enforcement, you are then free to sue the city which is precisely what New York City resident Phoenix Feeley did in 2005 and won. However to most women, like myself, who live in a city where it is illegal for a female to be topless in public, the follow- ing is a direct quote and what you can very likely expect to find from your local government. “Nudity or State of Nudity” means: (a) the appearance of human bare buttocks, anus, male genitals, female genitals, or the areola or nipple of the female breast; or (b) a state of dress which fails to opaquely and fully cover a human buttocks, anus, male or female genitals, pubic region or areola or nipple of the female breast.”
Even if you do not wish to walk down the street like a modern day Lady Godiva, that’s okay. You can be a part of this social reform and you can make a significant difference in the world by simply allowing you mind and your perspective to change just a little bit to be more accepting and loving of yourself and your mothers, sisters, and friends. Laws that do not include us, do not apply to us. Our government is not who decides our freedom, we are. If you wish to be bare, be bare. If you would rather not, that is your freedom to do so. Either way, we all deserve a choice without suffering legal consequences.
Article Issue: Dapper Dan Doll
Article credit: Cassandra Erickson
Photo credit: Spyros Heniadis